*Practice limited to federal immigration law. Licensed in NY, MA, but not in CA.

A Federal Judge Tentatively Upholds California’s Ban on Private Prisons and Private Immigration

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino has tentatively upheld California’s law banning private prisons and private immigration detention centers. In a preliminary ruling, Judge Sammartino suggested that she is likely to dismiss lawsuits filed by a private prison company and the Trump Administration. In doing so, she keeps the state on track to eliminate all privately run prisons and detention centers.

California Law Does Not Unconstitutionally Discriminate Against Federal Contractors

In filing a lawsuit against California, the GEO Group, a large private prison company, alleges that the state’s law unconstitutionally discriminates against federal contractors. The law (AB 32) bans new private prisons and private immigration detention contracts and it schedules all existing facilities to be phased out by 2028. Both the federal government and the private prison companies are actively fighting to stop the law. The preliminary ruling is a setback for the Trump Administration and private prison companies.

Many of California’s remaining private prisons are ICE-contracted immigration detention facilities. As of July of 2020, there are 10 private prisons/private immigration detention centers still operating in California. Collectively, these facilities have nearly 12,000 beds. While Judge Sammartino’s tentative ruling is a positive sign, immigration rights organizations caution that a prolonged legal fight on this issue is expected.

Private Immigration Detention Facilities Set to Be Phased Out in California

With the latest developments in federal court, private immigration detention facilities are still on a path to being banned in the entire state of California by 2028. Notably, the ruling affects the Adelanto ICE Processing Center and the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility—two of the largest for-profit immigration detention centers in the entire country. In recent years, regulators have uncovered significant health and safety violations at these (and other) facilities.

There has long been worry that profit-driven corporations are making life more difficult for vulnerable migrants. In late 2018, emails were released proving that private prison companies were lobbying the Trump Administration to enact even more draconian immigration enforcement policies.

California’s law helps to change the system for the better. Private companies should not be able to make a profit of detaining vulnerable migrants. As a representative for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told reporters, the decision is especially important because it is focused on “ICE’s private prison enterprise”—meaning other states can follow in California’s footsteps to create a better, more fair immigration system.

Contact Our Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys for Legal Guidance

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are strong and passionate advocates for immigrant rights. With experience handling the full range of immigration matters, our attorneys are prepared to help you and your family find a solution to any legal issues. For a confidential, no obligation initial appointment, please call us today. We represent clients throughout all of Southern California, including in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Anaheim, and Torrance.